Zac: Desperate backtracking over Recall by Nick Clegg

On LBC this morning, Clegg told listeners that he and I are ‘at one’ on the issue of Recall, that he supports ‘radical’ Recall but has had to compromise because of the Conservative backbenchers:

I wish that were true, but it is the opposite of the truth. I have debated the issue with him many times, and until very recently, he was vehement in his opposition to a proper Recall system. See below for brief transcripts the exchanges I have had with him on the issue and judge for yourself if Mr Clegg told listeners the truth this morning.

Nick Clegg is the architect of the current Recall Bill. It is a disgrace even by the standards of modern politics – and it will be rejected by Parliament, as it has been rejected by every single democracy campaign group in the UK. It is nothing more and nothing less than a con. Bottom line is that even after his ‘Recall’ is introduced, it would still be possible for an MP to join the BNP, fail to show up in Parliament, fail to speak to constituents, break all promises, even take a 5-year holiday without qualifying for Recall.

However the fact the Mr Clegg now feels the need to re-write history suggests that he is finally beginning to accept that. He still clings to the small print (even in his lengthy answer on LBC this morning – see below) but perhaps there we are beginning to see some light at the end of this grubby tunnel. To make that more likely, please sign this 38 Degrees petition: LINK and encourage your MP to sign or express support for this EDM: LINK


16 Oct 2012 Parliament

Zac Goldsmith: Given the problems with the reform agenda so far, and given the fact that recall represents an opportunity for some real, meaningful change that voters will notice, many people are concerned that the assurances being given at the moment are vague at best. Will the Deputy Prime Minister give us a crystal-clear timeline and will he draw inspiration, as he rewrites it, from my private Member’s Bill, the Recall of Elected Representatives Bill?

The Deputy Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman and I have spoken and I pay tribute to him for his dogged sincerity and commitment to a radical, California-style model of recall. We have looked at it and, as he knows—we have discussed it—we have concerns about the danger of such a model of recall becoming a kangaroo-court process. There need to be some checks and balances. We recently received the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee’s report, which makes certain observations and, indeed, strong criticisms of our approach, and we are considering our response.

4th June 2013 Parliament

Zac Goldsmith: Under the Deputy Prime Minister’s version of recall, an MP could refuse to come to Parliament, could refuse to hold any kind of surgery or see constituents, could switch parties at a moment’s notice, and could even go on a two-year holiday without notice, and would still fail to qualify under his proposals. How will that empower voters?

The Deputy Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman and I have spoken, and I know that he and the hon. Member for Clacton (Mr Carswell) feel strongly that we should move towards an unqualified Californian approach —a model that is not without its problems given some of the political practices in California. We are trying to strike a balance, and that will be reflected in our final proposals, to give voters and the public a back-stop reassurance that if someone commits serious wrongdoing and they are not held to account, they can be held to account by the public. Equally, we should not introduce a proposal that in effect would become a kangaroo court and a free-for all for everyone simply to take political pot shots at each other.

19th April 2012  – Speaking to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee

‘The worst expenses offenders had been dealt with by the courts and there are already procedures in place to remove MPs from office if they were jailed for 12 months or more’

‘The recall plan was still needed as a backstop in cases where MPs had been jailed for less than 12 months or if MPs decided they were guilty of serious wrongdoing’

‘It would be up to the House of Commons, in a vote of all MPs, to decide what constituted serious wrongdoing- I would have thought it fairly unlikely that the House would regard just outright industrial scale laziness as a matter of serious wrongdoing. I personally think someone who does that has not got much hope of being elected at the next general election.’

‘MPs should not be recalled because of political argy-bargy or if constituents violently disagree with their political opinions -That way lies a capricious, unbridled, highly politicised tit-for-tat system which I think would fly in the face our traditions of representative democracy’

Letter to Zac Goldsmith 20th July 2012

‘MPs must not be left vulnerable to attack from those who simply disagree with them or think they should have voted a different way on a particular measure’

Speaking on LBC: 18th April 2013

“You can’t turn this into a Kangaroo court otherwise everyone is going to try and Recall everyone else. You have to have some due process in this.”

Letter to Zac 24th Jan 2014

‘A system of full recall…  may leave MPs vulnerable to attack from those who simply disagree with them’

Then in Parliament on May 13th, Clegg begins to shift his position:

Zac Goldsmith: On the same issue, given recent events, does the DPM still believe that voters will be satisfied with a recall system that is triggered by the Standards Committee, rather than constituents? Does he still believe that, despite recent controversies?

Nicholas Clegg: As the hon. Gentleman knows, we were quite open in the coalition agreement, right at the beginning of the Government—I know that he does not like this—that we felt that there needed to be some triggers to prove that serious wrongdoing had occurred before recall takes place. I actually have quite a lot of sympathy with his much more radical approach, but I doubt that it would curry much favour across the Floor of the House. I want to get something done, rather than aiming for the stars and ending up with nothing

Finally, Clegg on LBC, June 5 2014

ZC: What does he think that the voters will do in the weeks or months or years to come when they face another scandal and they learn that the recall powers he has given them have not actually empowered them to hold their MP to account, and that certainly will happen.

NC: Right, Umm,  I will say this directly to Zac as well but I will say it on the radio, I have said this to him in the House of Commons I have talked to him for months on this.  Zac and I are completely at one.  I actually have got no objection at all to the kind of radical what they call California style recall that Zac likes right.  It has absolutely no hope at all of being passed into law because of profound objections from his own conservative colleagues.  I’ve had to battle day and night to get even this modest recall measure agreed in the queens speech against conservative party resistance.  There is simply no way that his own conservative parliamentary party would ever touch his proposal with a barge pole.  So all that I would say if I say it with any frustration, I’ve been trying to say it for months, is his choice is this: Either you aim for the stars and get nothing because his own party won’t support it, or you at least get some sort of recall mechanism onto the statute book-  and I’m an ideological politician who wants to change the world and all the rest of it- but I’m also a practical man.  There is simply no way that the kind of revolutionary power of recall that Zac has campaigned on and actually funnily enough I have quite a lot of personal sympathy with, would ever make it onto the statute book- not least because of the objections of his own party.  So what I’ve done, in Government, is to say, let’s at least get something on the statute book, by the way completely in line with our coalition agreement commitment, to make sure that there is a trigger so that people can.. .so that you have a petition in a local area, so that if there is ten percent of people who then say that they want there to be an election; it happens.  And that is what we are now going to try and get.

So look I say to Zac: First, talk to his own party, rather than constantly taking pot-shots at my attempts to get something on the statute book- cause’ that’s where the resistance has laid foot for the last several years.  And secondly, the choice for Zac and people like that and of reformers and by the way this is the case in reform more generally- Do you want no reform and be terribly pure and holier than though about it- and have no reform at all, or do you want to at least have some reform on the statute book?

NF- But if it’s true that it has to be a committee of MPs that sit on up on that, I appreciate that- I hear exactly that you have to get a middle ground, but it’s not particularly satisfactory.

NC- Let me explain.  In the coalition agreement we said, and I insisted on this being in the coalition agreement.  We said that- and do you remember this was in the wake of the MPs expenses scandals- We said that there should be a power of recall so that, crucially, I think the wording said something like- Where there has been proven serious wrongdoing- then constituents then have a right.  How you prove serious wrongdoing, that is where we got into kind of hot water with people like Zac.  Because Zac basically thinks- ‘I don’t really care whether serious wrongdoing is proven or not, people should just be able to assert it.’  What I think a lot of people are saying is- wait hang on a minute- you’ve got to have some- prevent it from becoming a complete kangaroo court, you’ve got to have some mechanism by which you can prove that serious wrongdoing has taken place, as we said in the coalition agreement.

Now, he disagrees with that, fine.  But he’s got to stop constantly- claiming that somehow this is some dastardly dilution of a good idea, when his own party has objected to it tooth and nail, in government, and I know that more than anyone else.  And secondly if you did what  Zac Goldsmith wants, do you know what would happen?  Nothing at all.  At the end of the day, me- as a reforming campaigning politician- I want in my time in government to get things done.  And they might not be everything that you want, and they might not be what all of the radicals want, but it’s better than doing nothing at all.

On June 5th, 2014, posted in: Recall, Zac's Blog by